In Sailing, Women Are Taking More Than a Seat

Competitive crusing has lengthy been an old-boys’ membership, but over the previous a number of many years, girls haven’t solely been becoming a member of the game, they’ve additionally generally been taking cost of it. They have grow to be senior executives of crusing organizations and yacht golf equipment, and skippers and house owners of boats.

For the primary time, in 2018, a female skipper won an around-the-world race, one of the vital grueling occasions in any sport, and 5 all-women’s groups have accomplished the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race (now known as simply the Ocean Race). The last American sailor to win an Olympic gold medal was a girl, in 2008, and ladies have additionally hoisted the America’s Cup.

Dawn Riley did that in 1992, and he or she now leads one of many pre-eminent high-performance crusing coaching facilities within the United States. Cory Sertl is president of US Sailing, the nationwide governing physique, and vice chairman of World Sailing, the worldwide governing physique. And Lindsey Duda Coe gained the Chicago Yacht Club’s 2019 Race to Mackinac on the boat she owns.

“Women athletes have been participating in Olympic sailing since 1988,” Sertl stated. “So, there are now more women who have experienced sailing at the highest level, and a number of these women have been drawn into being officials and leaders in the sport.”

Pamela Healy, a bronze medalist on the 1992 Summer Olympics, stated having feminine leaders was important.

“There was a Harvard Business Review study on boardroom dynamics that showed that corporations are more successful when they have at least three women voting members on their board of directors,” she stated. “Women add a diverse perspective that is invaluable to decision making and problem solving.”

In addition to successful numerous races, Healy has served on the boards of administrators of the St. Francis Yacht Club and the San Francisco Yacht Club and is the president of the St. Francis Sailing Foundation. “I feel respected,” she stated. “I don’t feel that I’m a token.”

Still, she sees alternatives for enchancment.

“It’s important to see photos of women in blazers on the wall, so women feel represented,” Healy stated, referring to yacht-club management. “And we need to improve boat ownership. That will equate to true equality.”

Some gender accomplishments have been hard-won. Riley stated she as soon as found that a male crew member with comparable duties and expertise was being paid twice as a lot as she was.

“I’m pretty happy with where I’ve gotten,” stated Riley, who later served as group captain of the principally feminine America’s Cup group­ Mighty Mary. “But my path was decidedly different than if I was male.”

Sertl, who was a member of the 1988 United States Olympic Sailing Team, stated crusing was nonetheless evolving.

“I feel really fortunate in the U.S. to have tremendous support from men and women,” she stated of her place at US Sailing. “But World Sailing is different and changing.”

For instance, 5 years in the past, Sertl made a movement at a assembly of World Sailing to have gender fairness in courses of boats and within the variety of medals and athletes at future Olympics. At that point, there have been extra crusing occasions for males than for ladies. “Three men in the room objected,” she stated.

While girls have competed for crusing medals because the 1988 Summer Olympics, and the International Olympic Committee is mandating a push for gender equality, Sertl desires to see extra feminine coaches who can function function fashions for aspiring feminine Olympic athletes.

“Many female athletes coming up haven’t had a high-performance female sailing coach,” she stated

Sam Davies is without doubt one of the most completed offshore sailors on the earth, male or feminine, and has competed thrice within the Vendée Globe, the solo around-the-world race. Far extra individuals have reached the summit of Mount Everest than have accomplished the Vendée Globe, which takes about 80 days to complete.

“I think that some of the hardest challenges I face are not because I’m a woman skipper, but because what I do is hard,” stated Davies, who has additionally skippered the all-women’s Team SCA within the 2014-15 totally crewed Volvo Ocean Race.

But she additionally stated that girls had a doable benefit in her sport: sponsorships.

“It’s maybe easier if you’re a good woman skipper,” she stated of the Vendée Globe. “Women can bring a good return on investment for a sponsor, because we’re a minority in a male-dominated sport.”

But discovering sponsorship and buying the correct boat are completely different issues. Of the 30 boats that had been on the beginning line of the 2020-21 Vendée Globe, 5 had been skippered by girls. Eight had been new designs, all skippered by males. “What’s missing is a sponsor who will give a boat that’s capable of winning to a female skipper,” Davies stated.

So far, Wendy Tuck is the one feminine skipper to have gained an around-the-world race.

“When I started skippering, I didn’t realize there wasn’t one,” stated Tuck, who gained the 2017-18 Clipper Round the World Race. Unlike the skilled crews of the Ocean Race, Clipper crew members pay to race aboard similar boats underneath the tutelage of skilled skippers like Tuck. While this will likely decrease the race’s stage of competitors, it will increase the skipper’s management challenges.

“My crews varied, but they were roughly 30 to 40 percent women,” Tuck stated. “I’ve been on non-Clipper trips where the men say that they like having females aboard, because it changes the dynamics.”

Although the variety of girls who’re skippers has been rising, they’re nonetheless outnumbered by males, which might damage confidence.

“A lot of women still believe that men are more capable than women,” stated Kristina Plattner, who’s skipper of the TP52 Phoenix 12, which she races on the 52 Super Series circuit. “But it’s not true, especially for helming a yacht.”

Which is why function fashions are important.

“I really hope that other girls can see women out there driving,” stated Duda Coe, proprietor of the Santa Cruz 52 Sin Duda. She admitted that being a feminine skipper was generally a battle. “Even on a boat I own, I’ve been intimidated by guys,” she stated.

The gender disparity, she added, is a component cultural and half physiological. “Body size and strength are important,” Duda Coe stated, however they aren’t the entire image.

Anna Tunnicliffe Tobias, who gained the final United States crusing Olympic gold medal, stated the significance of these components trusted the duty.

“I’m fairly fit, I think, but I cannot put out the wattage on the winches that some of the guys put out for 10 to 20 minutes, just because I don’t have the weight or height to put behind it,” she stated. “However, there are many other positions that I can do in the back of the boat, like drive, call tactics and navigate.”

Still, Tunnicliffe Tobias, who can be an elite-level CrossFit athlete, acknowledged that Grand Prix crusing is very aggressive. “At the elite level, there are only so many spots available,” she stated. “I was once told, ‘If you want a spot on the boat, earn it’. It resonated well with me.”

More girls are getting the chance to earn their spots aboard essentially the most refined boats due to efforts like SailGP’s mandate that groups have a minimum of one feminine sailor. Other Grand Prix occasions, such because the Ocean Race, provide incentives, like having a bigger crew, to groups that race with feminine sailors.

So whereas girls have made nice strides in crusing, Riley isn’t content material.

“When you shatter the glass ceiling, it’s not the first woman, it’s the third,” she stated. “That’s when you start to get equity.”

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